Book of the Month: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Okay. Book of the month: Becoming by Michelle Obama. I am so stale. I know. I can't believe I'm just now reading Obama's Becoming. It is really hard to make this the a book of the month because, how do you write about a book so phenomenal and truly profound? But then again, this book had to go on the record as one of my favorite books. I do generally love memoirs; I have mentioned that before when I wrote about  Trevor Noah and Susan Rice's memoirs. But Michelle Obama's memoir is up there as one of the best, most personal, most heartwarming, and amazing books. The one thought that ran through my mind as I read it was that I did not want to finish reading the book. I just wanted to keep hearing about her life and so I read it sooo slowly; I digested her words page after page;  I consumed it intimately because I did not want it to end. All of this is to let you know I enjoyed reading about Michelle Obama tell the story of her life. I should stop here, and just implore you to read the book. But if you need more convincing, continue below. 

First of all, this book packs a lot into it. But there is a refreshing honesty that seeps through every page. The book starts with her very humble beginnings, in which she describe her upbringing with fondness and love. This is also where we first learn of her father's declining health. In this first part, she takes us all the way from Euclid Avenue through Princeton, Harvard, fancy law firms, public service, hospital administration, and all the way to The White House. Memoirs present the perfect opportunity for people to tell their own side of the story, to clear up the air, and she did that by punctuating with some interesting junctures of their political career. Most notably, she describes the media's portrayal of her as an "angry black woman", "emasculating" and just how frustrated she was with being misunderstood. There is often a profound stupidity of the American media. I mean calling a harmless fist bump between a loving couple a "terrorist fist jab" is so blatantly stupid, so idiotic, I don't even want to give it energy. Moving on.

We also get a glimpse into how hard she tried to maintain her own identity and not be eclipsed into all of her husband's ambition, even despite politics taking over their lives. She reminds us often how little interest she had in politics. Apart from being a political memoir, this book was truly brilliantly written. She wove words together to tell, for instance, the story of her parents' marriage. In her description of how she came to fall in love with her husband, I don't know if it's the cynic in me but I often paused, wondering if truly their love is as beautiful as she describes. I actually think it is. At some point, she describes her husband as this incredibly cerebral man (which is true!) but also he stays up at night thinking about income inequality? LOL c'mon! But yes, it's not all roses and ice cream; they dealt with their fair share of challenges too (including infertility) and she shows how no matter how much you love each other, marriage can be crazy. This perfect, most brilliant, most beautiful husband suddenly chose to head off to Bali (alone!) six weeks after their marriage. 

One other notable thing that sticks out in the book is how she brings us into a world that was just as foreign to her as it is to us. And so she tells the story from the perspective/ position of humility. She describes the awe, the humility, the grandiose that she felt when she first encountered those experiences. It's not altogether surprising that she is this way. The one thing that they did in their administration was to open the White House as The People's House. A lot of people had access to that House that never did in previous administrations. In reading her memoir; whether it was meeting the Queen for the first time or living in a mansion built by slaves; or visiting the great wall of China; her fascination reminds you that this was not the world she ever expected to find herself in. It's exactly what draws you in to this memoir from the very first page till the end. 

How does a girl from the South Side of Chicago—who  grew up in a cramped apartment on Euclid Avenue —get to the halls of Princeton, Harvard, and of course to The White House?

She and Jesse Jackson's daughter, Santita Jackson, were very close buddies when they were young. In fact,  Santita Jackson was eventually Michelle Obama's maid of honor at her wedding. Anyway, Santita of course grew up with Jesse Jackson being her father, and once in a while Michelle Obama would follow her to her father's rallies. As Michelle Obama tells the story, at the time,  she used to marvel at the idea of being the child of a political figure like Jesse Jackson. While reading, I thought, if someone ever looked at Santita Jackson and Michelle Obama and wanted to guess, say, which of the two girls would likely end of living in the white house. No one would have bet on Michelle Obama. That's how wild life is. 

So much is packed in this book. I mean, I didn't even get into her beautiful relationship with her brother; how much of a hard-worker she is;  how proud she is of being a black woman; nor did I mention the high school counselor who told her she wasn't Princeton material. I can't imagine if she actually let that nonsense dissuade her from pursuing her goals. Too often, we give power to people who don't even matter. The woman planted a seed of failure in Michelle Obama before she could even try to succeed. 

"Failure is a feeling long before it's an actual result." - Michelle Obama

You WILL have doubters in this world. But like Obama says in her memoir, you must learn to live with it. Live like you have all the advantage in the world.



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